Transformation and Sustainability Plan

 

ACCESS: The plan will make it easier for more people, organizations, and communities to participate in national service.

  • The plan will put in place modern technology systems and simpler processes to make it easier for organizations to apply for and operate programs.
  • The plan balances our workload and provides for more equitable service delivery. The new structure will allow us to standardize the portfolio size, which today often varies significantly depending on location and stream of service.
  • The more-balanced workloads will lead to more consistent and higher levels of service for grantees, sponsors, and communities and ensure that investments go where they’re needed rather than where we have staff capacity.
  • The plan builds on the extensive progress we have already made to streamline our AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, and Senior Corps grant application processes and will result in further simplification.
  • By improving ease of entry, we will be able to support more people, organizations, and communities.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: The plan will put more staff and resources in the field to better serve our customers.

  • The plan creates a single point of contact for organizations to help navigate the full menu of national service resources and to administer grants and projects. This will increase consistency and reduce duplication of effort.
  • This change will also create organizational depth to ensure continuity and consistency in service delivery and improve oversight of grants and projects, and create better career ladders for agency staff.
  • The plan brings CNCS into closer alignment with many other federal agencies and puts more of our resources in the field supporting our grantees, projects, members, and communities. Our existing 46 state office spaces – 74 percent of which have three or fewer people – are becoming more costly to maintain due to rent increases, new federal technology requirements, security, and other infrastructure costs. This leaves CNCS with a choice whether to support real estate and technology or have more staff to support the impact and growth of national service.

IMPACT: The plan will provide more flexibility to meet emerging needs and strengthen our impact in communities.

  • By making service more accessible and increasing flexibility, the plan positions CNCS to better meet evolving community needs and support local solutions.
  • CNCS is making a number of changes to increase flexibility, simplify reporting, and streamline processes through AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, and Senior Corps and the plan furthers those efforts. By reducing administrative burdens, our grantees and sponsors can focus on what matters most: meeting needs in communities.
  • In addition, CNCS will target more resources to interventions that have demonstrated success based on data and evidence. This directional goal will lead to greater community impact by funding what works based on a quarter century of experience and data.

SUSTAINABILITY: By making much needed improvements, the plan will create long-term sustainability for CNCS and our programs.

  • The plan will fix core business functions that are needed to get CNCS on a sustainable path for the future.
  • We have already made strong progress with new resources and policies to support grantees in strengthening compliance with criminal history check requirements; awarding a contract to speed up IT modernization; and hiring new leaders to strengthen financial management.
  • The plan also tackles our longstanding branding challenge of having more than a dozen brands and visual identities by simplifying our brands to strengthen recruitment, awareness, and sustainability.

GROWTH: The plan positions national service for greater growth and impact in our communities and nation.

  • The communities around us are changing, and to serve them well, we must change too. This evolution is necessary for survival.
  • The plan does not change CNCS’s mission or funding streams. But it does make changes necessary for future growth.
  • Our responsibility is too great and our mission is too important not to make these improvements.
  • When we are done, we will be in a much stronger position to grow service and increase our positive impact in communities across the nation.


 

More About the Plan

Download Plan >Frequently Asked Questions >Myth vs. Fact >

 


 

Recent Updates

April 2019: CEO message to Grantees, Sponsors, and State Service Commissions

Dear Grantees, State Commissions, and Sponsors,

As we kick off National Volunteer Month in April, I want to thank you for your dedication to service. Because of your hard work, millions of Americans make volunteering a part of their lives each year. The work of the Corporation for National and Community Service is vital to our nation’s communities and that’s why I believe in our Transformation and Sustainability Plan – to ensure the agency’s future for our next 25 years and beyond. This plan comprises long overdue improvements to how we serve you and support your organization’s focus on impact, and we’ve made tremendous progress thus far. Here are a few updates:

  • Reducing Grantee Burden and Supporting Compliance with Criminal History Checks. Last fall, CNCS launched new tools and policies to eliminate barriers to compliance with the National Service Criminal History Check (NSCHC) and reduce noncompliance. We have seen strong use of the new Truescreen system and, last week, announced we are extending the Exemption Period to June 30, 2019 to ensure all grantees, and subgrantees as applicable, take advantage of the opportunity to complete CHC rechecks through CNCS-contracted vendors. If you have not already taken advantage of this Exemption Period, we strongly encourage you to do so.
     
  • Modernizing CNCS’s Grants, Projects, and Member Management System. While there remains much work to do, CNCS is advancing the development of a new grants, projects, and member management system. Over the past several weeks, we engaged grantee and sponsor representatives from all of CNCS’s programs that currently use e-Grants in user experience interviews to uncover user needs, identify unspoken challenges in the current system, and discover opportunities for improvements in a future system.
     
  • Improving How CNCS Serves You. There is a lot of activity underway at CNCS to implement our new portfolio manager roles and regional structure, and it’s important to me that you are kept apprised of what’s happening. With these changes, you will be able to work with one person at CNCS for both the programmatic and financial aspects of your grant, providing a more streamlined experience. Additionally, with the flexibility of a regional office structure, CNCS will be better positioned to provide consistent levels of technical assistance and training across the country.

     

    • Supporting Our Employees Through the Transition. CNCS’s transition to new grant management roles and a regional structure creates new opportunities, however we also recognize the impact it will have on our employees. We are taking several steps to retain our talent and support employees who are impacted by these changes. This includes providing priority hiring to internal staff for 97 percent of the new positions, as well as accelerating the hiring timelines to give employees certainty as soon as possible. In fact, we began the internal hiring process this month, even for regions that won’t stand up until February 2020 or June 2020. We are also offering impacted staff career transition and outplacement services. Many of our employees have dedicated their careers to CNCS, and we want to do all we can to encourage them to stay with us and also support them through this change.

       
    • Transitioning the Physical Office Space. As part of the transition to our regional structure, CNCS will begin closing its physical state office spaces between May 1 and July 1. During this time, CNCS staff in state offices will transition to full-time telework and continue to support you. Your State Program Director will provide more detail on this transition, including changes to their contact information, approximately four weeks before each state office’s transition occurs.
       
    • Improving Training and Business Processes. CNCS staff continue to lay the groundwork for success in our new structure. Our new Business Process Working Group is reviewing our agency’s processes, procedures, and guidance for each phase of the grant and project life cycle, to ensure we have standardized, easy-to-use resources to support employees in doing their jobs and providing service to you. Meanwhile, the Training and Development Working Group is reviewing and developing new plans for how we orient staff to CNCS, onboard and train staff for the positions that play key roles in the grant and project life cycle, and continue to develop employees’ skills and experiences over the course of their careers at CNCS. These efforts will parlay into the support, training, and technical assistance we provide you.
       
    • Articulating How We’ll Support You in the Regional Structure. We know that national service is made stronger with personal contact. In the new regional structure, every grantee or sponsor – including State Commissions – will have a Portfolio Manager assigned as their day-to-day contact for all aspects of grant management. Senior Portfolio Managers will be assigned as “leads” for each state and will supervise the Portfolio Managers who carry grants/projects for those states. The Senior Portfolio Managers will also lead on new program/project development for their assigned states, supported by their respective team of Portfolio Managers. Like today, we will travel as needed to meet in person with grantees, sponsors, and prospective partners, to provide trainings and technical assistance, or to see projects.

As we work to build a more sustainable agency, CNCS remains focused on administering and providing oversight to our national service programs. As I’ve communicated previously, the changes in the Transformation and Sustainability Plan do not impact the funds and national service members going to states and communities. I am very excited about this year’s CNCS investments.

  • Last month, we announced more than $13.6 million in funding to support Senior Corps RSVP programs in more than 150 communities across the country. These grants will leverage the experience and skills of more than 50,000 Senior Corps volunteers.
     
  • This month, CNCS will announce the 2019 AmeriCorps State and National grant awards including both competitive and formula awards. Last year, we awarded $572 million in AmeriCorps funding to help national and local organizations, faith-based groups, and educational institutions respond to the most critical issues facing communities in the U.S.

Lastly, I want to thank you for your continued input and ideas on the implementation of CNCS’s Transformation and Sustainability Plan. Input from stakeholders – including Congress, CNCS’s Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, grantees, sponsors, and staff – comprises the foundation of the plan and your additional input continues to shape our decision making and implementation. Please continue to send me your thoughts, ideas, and recommendations for strengthening national service – you can email me at transform@cns.gov.

Kind Regards,

Barbara signature blue

Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service

 

February 2019: CEO message to Grantees, Sponsors, and State Service Commissions

Friends,

As I enter my second year as CEO, I want to thank you for being our partners and update you on the progress we are making to build a sustainable future for national service.

Since starting this journey one year ago, I have seen Senior Corps volunteers and AmeriCorps members addressing some of America’s toughest challenges: helping students succeed in school, rebuilding communities after disasters, combatting the opioid crisis, supporting veterans and their families, and expanding opportunity for countless citizens.

I am grateful to the 300,000 national service members who step forward to serve each year, and the dedicated professionals at CNCS, State Commissions, and our thousands of project partners around the country who make their service possible. National service is propelled by extraordinary people who are passionate about making a difference, and I’m honored to work with you and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

Earlier this month, a large number of national service partners were in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings and events. Over the course of the week, I met with more than 150 service leaders, including board members of the three Senior Corps Associations, State Commission executive directors and board chairs, leaders of conservation corps and AmeriCorps national programs, and others.

This was an excellent opportunity to engage in dialogue on CNCS’s Transformation and Sustainability Plan, and how it makes needed improvements to better support and grow national service. I appreciated hearing from our partners about the plan, which was developed based on years of input and ideas from staff, grantees, participants, Congress, and evaluations and reports highlighting the need for CNCS to make significant changes.

Since announcing the plan last June, we have continued to hear from hundreds of stakeholders through listening sessions, letters, meetings, and calls. My team and I have also met with more than 60 Members of Congress or their staff about the plan. This process has enabled me to hear a wide variety of perspectives, and also allowed us to further elaborate on our agency’s many challenges and opportunities

Overall, the input has reaffirmed my belief that this plan puts CNCS on the right path for long-term sustainability and growth. It has also underscored the importance of making changes in smart ways that strengthen the amazing work being done by our members, volunteers, and projects. In that regard, we will continue to seek input as the plan moves forward. National service is a partnership, and we value the experience of our staff and partners.

Continuing To Serve You

One question we’ve been hearing is how the changes to our grant making roles and our new regional structure will affect grantees and sponsors. These changes and the other priorities we’re working on – things like modernizing our grants technology system – are essential to improving how we serve you and supporting your focus on impact.

  • By moving to regional offices, we will be able to keep more staff in the field supporting you.
  • Organizations will have a single point of contact at CNCS, reducing inconsistent information and duplication of effort.
  • More balanced workloads for our staff will lead to higher and more consistent levels of technical assistance and training.
  • The plan will lead to stronger community impact by providing more flexibility to meet emerging needs and ensuring investment goes where it’s needed.

I want to reiterate that this plan will not change our mission or the funds that flow into states and communities. As we make the transition to regional offices, there won’t be any gaps in service or oversight. You will continue to receive technical assistance and support as you do today. Each state and every grantee or project sponsor will have dedicated staff so you know who to contact. CNCS staff will continue to travel as needed to meet in person with grantees or sponsors, attend state meetings, provide trainings, or see projects.

As this process moves forward, it is important for us to retain as many staff as possible. CNCS has an extraordinary team of professionals, and we need their talent and experience. We are taking several steps including priority hiring for new positions, accelerating the hiring timeline to provide certainty as soon as possible, and offering career support services.

We have a lot of work ahead of us but when we are done, we will be a stronger agency and better partners with you. We have put additional information about our Transformation and Sustainability Plan on our website, and we will continue to share updates moving forward.  Please feel free to contact me through transform@cns.gov.

Respectfully,

Barbara signature

Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service

January 2019: CEO message to Grantees, Sponsors, and State Service Commissions

Friends,

As we mark the 25th anniversary of CNCS this year, we are making long overdue improvements to better support you and position national service for greater impact and growth for the next 25 years and beyond.

Many of you have asked what our Transformation and Sustainability Plan means for you.  The changes we are making will ultimately result in easier-to-use technology, simplified processes, greater consistency and organizational depth, more staff support in the field, and a higher-functioning agency as your partner.

We recognize that we are making changes from the way things have been done in the past. The communities around us are changing, and to serve them best, we must change too. The plan is designed to better serve you, support members and volunteers, and increase community impact. For example, our new Portfolio Managers in the regional offices will provide you a single point of contact for both the programmatic and financial components of your grant or project. But here’s what won’t change:

  • You will continue to receive technical assistance and support as you do today, which is predominantly by phone, email, and webinar.
  • Like today, each state and every grantee/sponsor relationship will have dedicated staff, so you know where to go and who to call.
  • Like we do today, we will travel as needed to meet in person with grantees, sponsors, and prospective partners, to provide trainings and technical assistance, or to see projects.
  • We will continue to partner with each state’s Governor-appointed State Service Commission.
  • Our mission and funding streams remain unchanged.

For now, you should continue to work with your existing program officer(s) and grant officer(s).  The transition to your new Portfolio Manager will happen between September 2019 and June 2020, with the specific timing based on your area of the country. I am committed to keeping you updated about these changes and ensuring a smooth transition. You will receive additional communications in the months ahead with the timing and changes, if any, to your point of contact.

We know that some of you have long-standing relationships with your program or grant officers. We are working to retain as many staff as possible by providing priority hiring for new positions, accelerating the hiring timeline to provide certainty as soon as possible, and offering career support services. CNCS has an extraordinary team of mission-driven professionals, and we need their talent, skills, and experience as we move forward.

I encourage you to learn more about what our Transformation and Sustainability Plan means for you and for the future of our agency. At any point, please do not hesitate to contact me through transform@cns.gov. I am committed to regularly updating you and engaging with you as this plan moves forward.

Respectfully,

Barbara signature blue ink

Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service

 

December 2018: CEO message to Grantees, Sponsors, and State Service Commissions

Dear Grantees, Sponsors, and State Service Commissions,

Two weeks ago, we shared details about upcoming improvements to CNCS's organizational structure. These improvements include establishing an eight-region field structure with offices located in Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Atlanta, GA; Philadelphia, PA; and Manchester, NH. These eight regions will support national service in all 50 states and territories. In addition, we will establish the new role of Grant and Project Portfolio Managers in each region. The managers in this role will be responsible for combined program and financial management of all CNCS grants and programs.

Regional map structure for TSP

Why this matters for CNCS grantees and sponsors:

  • CNCS’s new regional structure and realigned grant making and monitoring roles will make it easier for grantees and sponsors to interface with our agency. With these changes, organizations will be able to access CNCS programs through a single point of contact who will help current and prospective grantees navigate the full menu of national service programs. 
     
  • The realigned roles and regional office structure will position CNCS to improve and enhance consistency in our customer service. Portfolio Managers will have more balanced workloads that will enable them to facilitate even more robust training and technical assistance for grantees and sponsors.  
     
  • The regional structure brings CNCS into closer alignment with many other federal agencies, and positions CNCS to be even more responsive to areas of need. Our agency will also create specialty portfolio manager positions to support unique relationships that may require specialized skillsets, such as supporting our tribal grantees and sponsors.
     
  • These changes help ensure CNCS and our programs are best positioned to support the growth of national service and long-term sustainability of our agency. 

Please be assured that:

  • This plan does not impact the funds going to states and communities or national service participants serving in states and communities. 
     
  • This plan does not impact our financial support for Governor-appointed State Service Commissions that administer and distribute CNCS grant funds. 
     
  • This plan does not change CNCS’s important mission and commitment to getting things done in communities across the country. 

The process to implement our new structure will start this summer, as we close existing CNCS state office spaces and stand up our new regional offices. The first regional offices will be operational by Fall 2019. During this transition time, your point of contact will not change, and you will continue to receive the same support and guidance for your grants and projects. 


For questions about your project or who to contact: 

While these changes over the next two years will require a period of adjustment, they position both national service and CNCS for a more sustainable future.

I realize you will have questions about these changes, and we will continue to keep you informed as the Transformation and Sustainability Plan moves forward. You can direct questions about these changes to our Transformation and Sustainability Team at transform@cns.gov and find more information at www.nationalservice.gov/transformation.


Respectfully,

Barbara signature blue ink

Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service

 

November 2018: New CNCS Regional Structure 

November 2018: CEO message regarding new organizational roles and regional structure

Dear Friends,

It has been six months since I shared with you the Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) Transformation and Sustainability Plan, a set of goals designed to strengthen national service and volunteering and make CNCS more efficient, effective, and accountable to better serve our customers, meet the needs of the Nation, and be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Our plan includes six goals that address critical issues for sustaining a strong, high-performing agency equipped to support our large and decentralized system of national service. While this plan entails change, I want to continue to emphasize three things that are important to our state and community stakeholders:

  • This plan will not change CNCS’s important mission to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. It will, however, strengthen our ability to execute our mission.
  • This plan will not impact the funds going to states and communities.
  • CNCS turns 25 years old this year. The Transformation and Sustainability Plan is critical to ensuring the agency and our programs are best positioned to support national service in the future.

Today, I want to share an update on the progress CNCS is making on these goals. In addition to our ongoing efforts to seek input from stakeholders, we have worked at an accelerated pace to strengthen our core business functions and conduct thoughtful, staff-led analysis of our organization’s operating structure and roles. Our progress includes:

Launching new tools and policies to support grantee compliance with National Service Criminal History Checks (NSCHC). Earlier this month, CNCS announced the launch of the approved NSCHC vendor, Truescreen. This launch was a direct response to grantee feedback on the difficulty and burden associated with NSCHC compliance, an issue of concern which has consistently been raised by some members of Congress and the Office of the Inspector General. I am confident that the new vendor will not only improve compliance for grantees, but ultimately reduce grantees’ burden in complying with the NSCHC process, allowing them to focus on their main priority: serving communities in need.

Continuing to make progress on strengthening CNCS’s core business functions, including modernizing our financial management and information technology. New leaders in the Department of the Chief Financial Officer are strengthening financial operations and management through process improvement. Additionally, we directed an external review of National Service Trust accounting and coordinated with the Department of the Treasury, OMB, and the Office of Inspector General on enhancements to Trust transactions and reporting that will be fully implemented later this year. More recently, we awarded a new IT contract to accelerate the modernization of our grants and member management system.

Announcing a path forward on regional structure and grants management and monitoring. As previously announced, CNCS will transition to a regional field structure to improve consistency in how our agency delivers its services, strengthen continuity in our operations, and create more robust career ladders for staff. After thorough analysis, today I have announced a new eight-region field structure for CNCS. The agency’s new regional offices will be located in Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Atlanta, GA; Philadelphia, PA; and Manchester, NH, which is part of the Greater Boston region. This regional structure will bring CNCS into closer alignment with many other federal agencies and position CNCS to be even more responsive to areas of need. We will continue to serve and strengthen our partnership with Governor-appointed State Service Commissions that continue to carry out their mission of service in every state.

Additionally, CNCS will establish a new role of Grant and Project Portfolio Managers in each region. This role will be responsible for combined programmatic and financial management of grants and programs, enabling grantees and sponsors to have a single point of contact within the agency, and enabling CNCS staff to have an all-encompassing view of their grants and projects. To complement this more streamlined approach, Portfolio Managers will service the full menu of CNCS national service programs – including AmeriCorps State and National, Senior Corps, and AmeriCorps VISTA, as well as supporting AmeriCorps NCCC project development – from our regional field structure. This change positions CNCS staff to engage more comprehensively with current or prospective grantees/sponsors, members, and volunteers to identify the national service programs that are the best fit for them.

Oversight of our grantees/sponsors remains a critical responsibility of our agency, and an area in which CNCS must continue to strengthen its practices to be more responsive to areas of risk. To support our goal of improved oversight, CNCS will establish a centralized compliance monitoring unit at headquarters to oversee grantee, sponsor, member, and volunteer compliance with federal requirements, as well as other areas of compliance.

While change is never easy, I believe these changes are necessary to position our agency to be more effective and responsive in carrying out our mission. More information on these changes and their timing can be found here.

As I have mentioned before, progress on each of our Transformation and Sustainability Plan goals will move at different paces. I remain committed to leveraging the incredible passion, expertise, and insight of our stakeholders, staff, and communities in the further design and implementation of the plan. Our responsibility is too great and our mission is too important not to make the improvements necessary to strengthen CNCS’s foundation. This will position us to create more opportunities for Americans to serve their communities and our Nation.

I look forward to keeping you updated and engaged on our progress, and working alongside you over the months ahead.

 

Warmest Regards,

Barbara Signature

Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service

 

November 2018: CEO message regarding new resource to support grantees

Dear Grantees,

I am pleased to announce the launch of the recently approved National Service Criminal History Check (NSCHC) vendor, Truescreen. As of today, this vendor is available to provide State and National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) checks to CNCS grantees. Truescreen’s sister company, Fieldprint, will continue to provide CNCS grantees with FBI checks.

This launch is a direct response to grantee feedback on the difficulty and burden associated with NSCHC compliance. After a year of vendor research, thorough internal testing, and a successful grantee soft launch, I’m confident in the level of service and opportunity for improved compliance that this new vendor will provide. Today’s launch is a significant advancement in our commitment to beneficiary safety and grantee compliance.

Moving forward, I have authorized a number of directives to support grantee use of Truescreen and Fieldprint, namely:

Additional funding for AmeriCorps State and National and Senior Corps grantees to use Truescreen and/or Fieldprint to obtain compliant checks on individuals serving or working in covered positions.

An exemption period during which CNCS will not take administrative enforcement action for noncompliance for grantees that conduct rechecks of covered positions, using Truescreen and/or Fieldprint.
Additionally, to emphasize our priority to utilize CNCS-approved vendors and desire for a more streamlined NSCHC process, CNCS will implement the following changes over the coming months:

Phase out most of the currently approved Alternative Search Procedures (ASPs) at the end of calendar year 2019.

Implement a process where a manual hold may be placed on grant funds for grantees who are found to be noncompliant with the NSCHC requirement until grantees are able to obtain compliance using the agency’s approved vendors.

Implement a new cost-based disallowance policy to replace the current NSCHC Disallowance Matrix.
You will receive a separate message today from AmeriCorps State and National, Senior Corps, and AmeriCorps VISTA program directors with additional information on these changes and instructions on how to leverage the newly available resources.

I’m confident that utilizing these vendors will not only increase compliance, but ultimately reduce grantee burden as we streamline the NSCHC process -- this will allow you to focus on your main priority: serving communities in need.

I look forward to seeing shared success and improved compliance across all our programs as we work to improve lives and strengthen communities through national service.


Best,

Barbara signature

Barbara Stewart

Chief Executive Officer

 

September 2018: CEO message regarding public input received

Dear Friends,

It has been three months since I shared with you the Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) Transformation and Sustainability Plan, a set of goals designed to make CNCS more efficient, effective, and accountable to better serve our customers, meet the needs of the Nation, and be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Our plan includes six goals that resulted from months of intensive review of our operations and programs. That process took into account a wide range of ideas and recommendations from staff, grantees, national service members, the Office of Management and Budget, Congress, the Office of the Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, as well as many years of CNCS evaluations and reports. 

As CEO, implementing our plan remains my top priority. The goals address critical issues for sustaining a strong, high-performing agency equipped to support our large and decentralized system of national service. While this plan entails change, I want to stress three things that are important to our state and community stakeholders:

  • This plan will not change our mission to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.
  • This plan will not impact the funds going to states and communities.
  • Since CNCS’s inception, the agency has been repeatedly recommended for elimination or significant reduction in budget proposals. We cannot ignore the concerns that have been raised about our agency. CNCS turns 25 years old this year, and we want it positioned to support the growth of national service for another 25 years and beyond.

Since the announcement of the plan, I have spent time listening to you, our grantees, sponsors, and stakeholders, as well as the Administration and members of Congress, seeking feedback and requesting your best ideas for accomplishing the goals outlined in the plan. CNCS hosted seven in-person and teleconference listening sessions attended by more than 500 individuals, met with many national and community service stakeholders, and received official comments from more than 260 individuals and organizations. My team and I have also met with a number of key Congressional stakeholders to further discuss our plan and its impact on national service. This listening period enabled me to hear what is on your minds, including what aspects of the plan you support, what aspects you have concerns about, and most valuably, how to best move forward.

Across the verbal and written comments, many themes emerged including:

Goal #1: Strengthening core business functions. Your comments focused overwhelmingly on the need to (a) modernize our grants and member management system and (b) make it easier to complete the criminal history check, which today creates a significant burden and yields an unacceptable level of improperly-performed or late checks. On systems, we heard how important it is to develop a modern, reliable IT system and that CNCS should ensure stakeholders are at the table to help us design a customer-friendly product. On criminal history checks, we heard clearly about the need for a national channeler to handle the complex criminal history check process so you can focus on your core mission. On this front, I am pleased to announce CNCS has engaged a national vendor that will offer a new option starting this fall. You will be hearing more detail on this soon.

Goal #2: Improving efficiencies and effectiveness in our grants management and monitoring. We heard about many cases of uneven delivery of CNCS services across both programs and states, and about the importance of program and monitoring staff being knowledgeable about grants and program topics. Many comments focused on the importance of adequate training for agency staff, as well as strengthening collaboration between CNCS state offices and state service commissions. As we move forward, we will stay focused on ensuring any changes in roles or structure will (a) make it easier for you to interact with our agency; and (b) respond to the concerns of the Government Accountability Office, Office of the Inspector General, and others about problems that could arise when those who are responsible for providing technical assistance also oversee compliance.

Goal #3: Prioritizing evidence-based interventions. Many of you agreed with this goal; however, concerns were raised about implementing it in practice. Some cited inadequate resources to test programs for impact, as well as service activities that have not yet developed evidence-based models. I want to emphasize this remains a directional goal, and CNCS will continue to identify and invest in innovative approaches to address local needs. Nevertheless, continuing to ramp up our investment in evidence-based interventions is essential to maximizing the impact of our limited national service resources.

Goal #4: Simplifying and streamlining the application process. While this goal focuses on simplifying the existing application and working toward the deployment of a more common application across all programs, many comments emphasized the equally great opportunity to simplify grants management requirements and procedures. I believe we all share the goal of wanting to streamline the process across the entire award and member lifecycle.

Goal #5: Simplifying the CNCS brand. We heard broad recognition that the agency and its programs need a more consistent and recognizable brand identity. While we heard many perspectives on what this could and should look like, there is agreement about making sure more Americans easily understand the service we perform through our programs and initiatives. Our ultimate goal is to create a brand that explains national service in a concise and clear fashion, and aligns with the great work we are supporting in communities throughout the country.

Goal #6: Aligning our workforces and workplaces to a consistent, regionalized structure. We received many comments about the differences between CNCS programs, the importance of on-the-ground knowledge, and how much you value your program and grants officers, whether located in a state office, one of our multi-state offices, or at agency headquarters. We also heard concerns questioning if this goal would impact the level of technical assistance you value today from CNCS staff. While I recognize change can be unsettling, our intent is to strengthen the level of service provided by our agency. To accomplish this, we must (a) provide more consistent program delivery to current and prospective grantees, sponsors, members, and volunteers; (b) create organizational depth to ensure continuity in operations; and (c) expand career opportunities for our high-quality staff.

In addition to these common themes, you offered many other helpful suggestions for how CNCS can work with grantees, sponsors, members, volunteers, and other stakeholders to strengthen the delivery of national service programs.

I want to thank those who took the opportunity to provide input at this stage of our planning. Your comments spanned a wide spectrum respective to each goal and provided many helpful reminders of the potential impacts of change that we will need to navigate. They also reaffirmed my belief that this plan is on the right path. It is important to stress this plan does not contemplate change to the program funds that flow into our states and communities – several streams of which are statutorily and formulaically prescribed. Rather, it intends to strengthen the foundation of our decentralized service delivery model to ensure CNCS can support the growth of national service.

Progress on each of these goals will move at different paces. I am committed to leveraging the incredible passion, expertise, and insight of our customers, staff, and stakeholders in the further design and implementation of the plan. Our responsibility is too great and our mission is too important not to make the improvements necessary to strengthen CNCS’s foundation. This will position us to create more opportunities for Americans to serve their communities and our Nation.

I look forward to keeping you updated and engaged on our progress, and working alongside you over the months ahead.

Warmest Regards,

Barbara Signature
Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service

 

June 2018: CEO message announcing Transformation and Sustainability Plan

For nearly a quarter century, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has leveraged our Nation’s greatest resource—the American people—to get things done. Working hand in hand with thousands of local partners, CNCS funds programs that improve lives, expand opportunity, encourage personal responsibility, and strengthen civil society.

Through the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs, 300,000 trained and dedicated citizens provide their service at 50,000 sites across the country. They take on tough problems, assume leadership roles, and deliver powerful results, recruiting millions of additional volunteers to increase their impact.

CEO Barbara Stewart supporting an AmeriCorps team at a Habitat for Humanity Buildathon in 2018.

CEO Barbara Stewart supporting an AmeriCorps team at a Habitat for Humanity Buildathon in 2018.


Our members and volunteers help millions of Americans succeed in school, prepare for 21st century jobs, live with independence and dignity, increase self-sufficiency, and rebuild their lives after addiction, homelessness, job loss, or natural disasters. We are advancing multiple priorities of President Trump’s Administration to promote economic mobility, develop workforce skills, revitalize cities, combat the opioid crisis, prevent elder abuse, support veterans and military families, and grow the economy.

Supporting this large and decentralized system of national service requires a strong, high-performing agency. Our Transformation and Sustainability Plan will make CNCS more efficient, effective, and accountable to better serve our customers, meet the needs of the Nation, and be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

The plan outlines specific steps the agency will take to:

  • Ensure our core business functions are accountable and effective
  • Make it easier for organizations and individuals to participate in our programs
  • Strengthen our impact in communities by prioritizing evidence-based models
  • Align our workforce and workplaces to better serve our customers, meet evolving needs, and ensure efficient use of public funds

This plan outlines the work we need to do to achieve our mission, increase our impact, and build long-term sustainability. It is the culmination of months of intensive review of our operations and programs. We considered a wide range of recommendations from the Office of Management and Budget, Congress, the Office of Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, and other CNCS evaluations and reports.

We also considered years of input and ideas from staff, grantees, national service members, and other stakeholders.

The plan responds to the requirement for all Federal agencies to develop recommendations to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability. It also aligns with the President’s Management Agenda for modernizing the Federal Government to better deliver on mission outcomes, provide excellent customer service, and effectively manage taxpayer dollars. We look forward to sharing this plan with our stakeholders and seeking their input on implementation.

As CEO, my top priority is implementing this plan to ensure the sustainability of national service. My experience in the private sector has taught me that every organization can and must look for opportunities for improvement. CNCS is no exception.

Making these improvements will take an all-hands-on-deck effort. Knowing the level of dedication and professionalism of our staff, grantees, and members, I am confident we will rise to this challenge. Our responsibility is too great and our mission is too important not to make the improvements necessary to produce the lasting change we all desire. And when we have made these changes, we will be in a much stronger position to increase our positive impact in communities across the Nation.

America's greatness comes from the extraordinary acts of ordinary citizens. For nearly 25 years, CNCS has tapped the ingenuity and can-do spirit of the American people to solve local problems. We look forward to strengthening this foundation and creating more opportunities for Americans to serve their communities and strengthen our Nation.

Warmest Regards,

Barbara Signature
Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service

 

 

 

TSP Public Comment Period

The public comment period (June 19- August 24) is now closed. We extend sincere thanks to all those who submitted comment; your feedback is crucial to the success of the Transformation and Sustainability Plan. We invite you to view the public comments that have been submitted to the Federal Register

View Public Comments > See How We Turned Comments Into Action>

Transformation and Sustainability Plan Call Recordings

If you missed one of our TSP calls, you can catch up and listen here.

Listen Here >

 

 


 

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